Tag Archives: business

A Tribute to Wehner Mansion

5985327859_3f314741f2_bHeritage Room azules.pdfThis guy once painted Civil War scenes on a panoramic scale in Chicago. Wonderful William Wehner, German born, American famed artist, moved to Evergreen in the 1880’s and built one of the most beautiful structures in Santa Clara County.  The Blue Hills Estate, Wehner Mansion or Cribari Mansion, whichever you prefer, has been a longstanding gem of Queen Anne architecture hiding in Evergreen.

IMG_0214IMG_0206Behind locked gates, this historically designated but almost uninhabitable building has seen better days.  There’s a questionable title and legal loopholes being used to keep the home out of the bank’s hands exclusively, rendering it unable to be sold, preserved or renovated.  Wait a second, there is life here.  I felt it all around me when I took these photographs.  It’s just not human life.  The Mansion is quickly being reclaimed by nature, and a territorial young buck.  Read the above post for that story.

Wehner, Albert Haentz, Cribari and Mirassou families all utilized this stunning home and its expansive vineyards.  Until the 1970’s, this mansion was storage and winery for some of the world’s most famous vines.

I know it’ll be some time before you make older friends who’ll let you snoop around their homes looking for nuggets of Evergreen gold.  Here’s a reimagining of the Wehner Mansion.

wehner mansion Wehner%20mansion

Here’s the progression of the drawing for your art buffs

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Who was Cunningham?

P1310197We have a giant Lake in Evergreen, showing up in every map throughout time.  Lake Cunningham wasn’t always a lake but rather a large marshland.  This was where Silver Creek, Ruby Creek, Flint Creek and Thompson Creek emptied into.  Also remember that many other creeks empty into Thompson, like Fowler and Norwood Creeks.  Our Evergreen area was also known as the Lagunitas for the multiple creeks and run off steams in Evergreen.  The Lake was initially called Laguna Seca or Socayre.  In the late 1800’s would become known as Silver Lake.  Velma Million would initiate the campaign and follow through on her passion to create Lake Cunningham.  So, who was Cunningham?

CAM09068velma_interiorLake Cunningham’s Champion, Velma Million, explained to me that the name of the park was the person who owned the property last before seized by the City of San Jose for flood control measures that would stabilize and help the entire Evergreen watershed known as lower Silver Creek.  James F. Cunningham wouldn’t be a pioneer or impressively long term resident of Evergreen, but he was quite a remarkable character on his own.  Truth is Cunningham would only come to Evergreen and San Jose in the later years of his life.

new orleansjf cunninghamBorn in Canada, Queens County, New Brunswick, in 1844, James F. Cunningham worked on the family farm before apprenticing for a merchandise store when he was thirteen.  Cunningham would then travel to Maine and enlisted in the United States Army to fight in the Civil War when he was seventeen.  James “Jim” Cunningham would be apart of the battle taking back New Orleans.  He saw battle quite a few times and was a well decorated soldier, serving in the GAR as a veteran.  After serving in the Gulf of Mexico through the Civil War, Cunningham would go to Brooklyn, New York, and open up shop.  If you can’t make it there…. Make it, Cunningham would.

]Jim Cunningham was wounded in while serving twice, and as a result, his health suffered even at the age of 25.  A young James Cunningham would close down his New York merchandise store and move South.  Cunningham would open another store in Missouri looking for warmer weather at the behest of his doctors.

james_f_cunninghamJames F. Cunningham then traveled in San Francisco in 1869 again for his health and again engaged in the merchandising business.  Cunningham would deposit all of his money from the Army, New York and Missouri into the bank and shortly after the San Francisco bank collapsed.  In 1870, Cunningham would loose all of his savings and need to be creative in his endeavors.  James Cunningham would get knocked down a couple times and manage to get back on his feet.

Cunningham Mill - Staff PosingJames’ brother would live in Santa Cruz County and be the closest family penniless James had.  Jim Cunningham would take advantage of homesteading laws and open government land in Santa Cruz County, in the Felton and Boulder Creek area.  James Cunningham would get his start making tanbark and shingles for roofs.  In just a few months, Jim cut and sold lumber, saving up $1,000.00 to open another store with a partner, H. W. McCoy.  Cunningham would become a part of many successful business ventures in Santa Cruz County between the multiple lumber mills and general stores.

Cunningham Mill - 1892 Sanborn MapIn 1873, James would marry Sarah Glynn but the couple never had children.  James Cunningham would later be elected to Santa Cruz County office and represent Santa Cruz in the State Assembly in 1878.  The lumber business became very competitive in the 1880’s and Cunningham, being away so often, allowed himself to be bought out by partners.  He was too old to work on the Mill anymore, although Jeremiah may have managed for sometime after.  This print from the Lumber Mill is from 1901.

books cunninghamP1310186 (4)Don’t worry.  The force of nature that was James F. Cunningham never gave up even though he had enough money to retire into the sunset.  Cunningham’s sunset was the East San Jose farm and it wasn’t retirement.  The Cunningham’s ranch would be off of Cunningham Avenue and King Road, extending into Evergreen.  Cunningham may have hunted at the Lake named in his honor.  I found James F. Cunningham in the 1890 edition of Polk’s San Jose City Listing with his brother, Jeremiah.  Cunningham & Co. owned a general store off Market Street.  James would develop this land and sell a portion to his brother as seen in this 1902 map.  Jeremiah’s residence would be labeled JWC here.

James Cunningham would also known a large ranch in Mountain View, located at present day Moffett Field.

80492586_133783552796James F. Cunningham would pass away in 1907 at the age of 63, having a military honor at his burial.  His East San Jose farm would be worked by his brother for another twenty years after.  His brother, James F. Cunningham, was a warm, well-liked guy from many sources.  The Santa Cruz Surf said on November 25, 1907:

“For one who had made his way in the world from the bottom up by personal force and aggressiveness, ‘Jim’ Cunningham was a remarkably lovable man, and to him the people in his employ and of his neighborhood were notably loyal.”

Nirum Cadwallader – Evergreen’s generous Mining Tycoon

san jose newsNirum’s an awesome name, as is Cadwallader.  For the purposes of my research, I much prefer it to Smith, Stevens, Jones or John.  However, when looking into Mr. Cadwallader, he occurs all over the map.  The fabulous women of History San Jose pulled it all together for me.  I’m always looking for a portrait on my Evergreen individuals.  This one happens to be in print, not a photograph.

P1310185 (2)Mr. Nirum Cadwallader, for whom the school is named, as previously discussed donated the lands to both the Evergreen Schoolhouse at the corner of San Felipe and Evergreen Roads in 1860 and to the Women’s Relief Corps in 1887, located on Cadwallader Avenue.  The WRC is probably one of these subdivision plots.  By my estimation of the 5 acres donated, I think it’s probably 34 or 57.  Those are the only ones bigger enough and “on” Cadwallader.  At the time, Cadwallader Avenue started at San Felipe Road.  Now, there are only foot bridges connecting Cadwallader to Keaton Loop, formerly San Felipe Road.  We’ll discuss this in further detail later.  No doubt, Mr. Cadwallader helped shape Evergreen as we know it.

books cadwalladerbooks cadThe earliest records of Mr. Nirum Cadwallader appear from Birchville, California, because that’s where he initially struck it rich.  Originally from Ohio, Nirum Cadwallader would be apart of the Gold Rush of 1849.  In an illustrated version of Popular Science in 1866 would bring attention to Mr. Cadwallader’s patent on a technique of compressing air in dynamic to create larger blasts.

4592131824_302x427Nirum Cadwallader (1833-1890) was the great grandson of Ohio’s Seneca County’s Hopewell Township’s first settler, Nathan Cadwallader.  Nirum’s father Samuel Cadwallader and wife Mary would raise 7 children, of which Nirum was the eldest.  He would’ve been sixteen as he would’ve heard the news of gold from California.  As a young man, Cadwallader would work his way up the chain at the Milton Mining Company, surely getting the necessary experience that took him to his future heights.  The Cadwallader family name is quite popular there in Ohio and along the east coast, also spelt Cadwalader.  It and the family originate from Wales, being a descriptive term for the Welsh people.   The family’s lineage can be traced back to a Welsh King.  Chances are the Cadwalladers were well off in Ohio.  There are a long line of Cadwallader inventors preceding and succeeding him.  The first Cadwalladers would leave England in 1640, arriving in Virginia, and slowly migrating west from there.

Hopewell Township, Atlas: Seneca County 1874, Ohio Historical MAs a young man, Cadwallader would work his way up the chain at the Milton Mining Company, surely getting the experience that took him to his future heights. However established, Nirum Cadwallader would break out from Milton and arrive in California in 1855, at the age of 22.  Nirum would become a prolific businessman, acquiring stocks and equity in numerous mining, telephone, water and utility companies in Nevada County, California.  He was a very rich and well-respected man quickly after coming to California.  Mr. Cadwallader would be married twice, but his first wife passed away while he still lived in Birchville. I couldn’t find any records of the first marriage or the children they might have had.  After returning home, no doubt to grieve, Nirum would marry the much younger Emma J. Hart (1847-1930) also from Ohio, having 3 children together.  Nirum Cadwallader would own 160 acres in Ohio as shown to the left in this 1874 Atlas.  Samuel, his father, would live with Nirum for part of the year, probably during Ohio’s colder months.

cadwallader residenceIf you’re mining for gold in Nevada County, California, you would need quicksilver to obtain pure gold and remove other elements from the compound.  If you’re a forward thinking man with mining interests and better mining techniques like Mr. Cadwallader, you might look for some quicksilver mines of your own.  This is what probably brought Mr. and Mrs. Cadwallader to San Jose for good in 1881.  Although it is unclear whether or not he had any part of the Silver Creek Mines before their flooding and abandonment, Nirum Cadwallader would purchase land in the heart of Evergreen in the 1860’s, though they never lived there.  This was a second property to vacation from their downtown home, which was located off of the Alameda, in the heart of Downtown San Jose.  It’s been torn down.  When Cadwallader donated the land because he hadn’t built on it, he made a huge impact on the Community of Evergreen.  Mr. Nirum Cadwallader has been rumored to be a very generous man throughout his life.

scan0135In 1888, Birchville’s mining industry would dry up as the mines were picked clean.  The population of Nevada County quickly shrank.  Forward thinking Mr. Cadwallader had already set up shop elsewhere.  His patent made him rich, as did his business ownings.  Mr. Cadwallader died in 1890, a year after the WRC opened.  Mrs. Emma Cadwallade, the widow, would deed a park in his honor.  The small park still exists between 1st and 2nd Streets at Keyes Street.  It is the cutest wedge of land with palm trees.  This crossroads would dictate the direction you were heading before highways were built.  Monterey Road was the closest thing to a highway, also being a portion of the El Camino Real.  First Street heading North lead you Santa Clara and then the Alameda which turns to the El Camino Real to San Francisco.  Heading down Second Street took you towards Oakland via Oakland Road from Thirteenth Street.

P1320428In donating the property to the Women’s Relief Corps in December 1887, constructed in 1889,  a ceremony was held to commemorate the occasion in Evergreen on April 6, 1889.  The WRC took a year and a half to build on Cadwallader Avenue.  A mile long precession and banquet hosted by “ladies of Evergreen”, notable ladies like Mrs. E. J. Smith, Mrs. J. J. Jones, Miss Fowler, and Miss McClay.   The occasion was celebrated with Mr. and Mrs. W. L. Edwards, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Cunningham, Mr. and Mrs. Lantz (neighbors nearby the WRC), Miss Minnie Keliher and the Chew Family.  It was said that Mr. Cadwallader held the event to show off his beautiful wife from Ohio.  She later remarried Mr. Taylor in 1910, twenty years later.

P1310185 (3)Mr. Nirum Cadwallader’s Evergreen property turned into one of the first densely built home developments in the downtown of Evergreen.  It was all located around Cadwallader Avenue, named in his honor.  Close by Cadwallader Subdivision were the Smith properties and General Store, Andy Kettmann’s Saloon and the Schoolhouse.  When the town grew, it did so because people enjoyed having neighbors and countryside in the places like the Cadwallader Subdivision shown to the right.  If you worked these farms nearby, you probably couldn’t afford lots of acres of your own.  Plus, you were too busy to ever profit off of the land or tend to it yourself.  Evergreen’s farming industry took the whole village to harvest.  Evergreen School Sessions would sync with the harvest season, because the kids would be home working as well.

signpostPatricia Loomis discussed the WRC’s opening with first person resources in her article “Cadwallader Ave. Has Had Problems” in her ‘Sign Posts’ series, revisiting historic events in San Jose’s history for the San Jose News in October 17, 1975.  What I hadn’t realized before I found Patricia Loomis’s Sign Post was that Cadwallader Avenue went through to San Felipe.  The road bridge would be washed out in 1893 after heavy rains.  At the time, Cadwallader crossed Thompson Creek, formerly known as Dry Creek because it ran dry in summer months.  The wash out surely as something to do with the redirecting of San Felipe Road.  It’s never been replaced.

 

 

 

 

Wehner Mansion – a house by many names

Sadly, lomasazulesthere are only a few original structures left from Evergreen’s early days.  There aren’t Victorian homes standing like there are downtown.  The old timers know the old town by the hundreds year old oak trees that marked their old homes.  These relics from the 1800’s are obscured by trees and fences for the most part.  This one is tucked back into the hills of the Villages Retirement Community, empty and unused.  The absence of warmth to this one time brimming mansion is one of the sadder things I witness in Evergreen.  Personally, I would love to it restored in time for my own wedding.  This is the Wehner Mansion, but over time, it’s had many names.

Heritage Room azules.pdfThe initial 718 acre property would be purchased in 1887 for $20,000 from Mr. McCarthy and construction would begin the following year.  Built by German immigrant, William Wehner, it was originally named the Villa Lomas Azules or Blue Hills Estate for its stunning color.  It is only fitting that Wehner’s house be colorful.  William Wehner (1853-1916), after coming to the United States from Hanover, Germany in the 1850’s, would be a famous Chicago painter, painting large scale panoramic paintings commemorating the Civil War.  His Evergreen home would became a winery as Wehner planted 175 acres of vineyards within a couple years.  William Wehner’s White Wines were award winning in 1888 and into the 1890’s.  Wehner would come to own and plant over 3000 acres of vineyards.

5985327859_3f314741f2_bThe Blue Estate or Villa Lomas Azules was a 3-story, Queen Anne style home built into the hillside.  The construction on the mansion was finally complete in 1891.  It was built by famous Chicago skyscraper builders from the firm of Burham and Root, designed by Richard Burham.  It would be the only home the firm ever designed.  The Mansion’s main architectural feature was its archway entrance for carriages along the bottom floor, but I love all the rounded features.  The Mansion also has a full basement, which later became wine storage.  The Blue Estate had an outdoor kitchen and a garden house, as well as a winery added in 1908.

P1310186 (2)In 1915, Wehner would sell the winery and vineyard portion of the estate to Albert Haentze.  The two men had a lot in common.  Haentze (1896-1947) was another German immigrant vintner from Chicago.  His main occupation before coming to California was a mortgage broker.  Haentze came to Evergreen and bought Wehner’s vineyard.  Mr. Albert Haentze would become the leader of the Santa Clara Valley Grape Growers Association until Prohibition.  Haentze renamed the winery Rancho Villa Vista.  William Wehner sold his vineyards in the knick of time.  Prohibition closed down the Evergreen wineries in 1918 and Wehner passed away only a year later.  The Santa Clara Valley Grape Growers would then consider canning grapes and crushing grapes for juices and syrup.

housevin-villagesIn 1933, Italian born, Benjamino Cribari (1859-1942) would purchase the first portion of the Villa Lomas Azules.   With Prohibition having been lifted, the Italian immigrant would raise his vineyards for altar and traditional table wines.  In 1940, the Cribari family would come to own the rest of the property.  It would then be known as the Cribari Mansion.

cribari1Benjamino Cribari, born in the Calabria, Italy, would come to the United States at the age of 29.  With his wife and two small kids in Italy, Benjamino would work on the railroad for a couple years before returning home to his family.  In 1902, the young Cribari family would relocate to Colorado and then California, where they bought 40 acres of land east of Morgan Hill.  At first, Benjamino, a farmer, would only sell wines to his friends and family before he needed to acquire more land to compete with his growing demand for Italian style wines.

The Cribari Wineries would move operations back to Morgan Hill in 1959.  The Blue Estate’s future became unclear.

P1310098In the meantime, the Mirassou Family vintners would come to lease the property.  They would rent the independent winery for winemaking and the full basement for storage.  The oldest winemaking family in America would use the historic facilities until its historic operations also had to relocate in the 1980’s.

P1320410The Evergreen wineries were being pushed out by development and a growing suburb.  Several developers purchased the property before the Villages were finally built around it.  The Historic value of the Victorian mansion is recognized by the condition of the home is quite questionable.  There’s much discussion about preserving the historic home, but the fruits of those discussions are yet to ripen.  It’s a beautiful piece of Evergreen’s history and someday, we’ll see the Blue Estate shine again.

Here’s our artwork which features the Wehner Mansion.

1940 1885

 

 

 

John J. Montgomery – Aviating Pioneer

The town of montgomery newsmontgomeryEvergreen, still not apart of San Jose, was known for many things at the turn of the 20th century.  One of the things, besides its plentiful fruit and famed wines, that put the Village of Evergreen and City of San Jose on the national map was the invention of modern flight.  The inventor, engineer, and dare-devil John J. Montgomery would flight Man’s first controlled flight in 1883 and take flights from the Evergreen hillsides and in downtown San Jose in the early 1900’s.  Montgomery and fellow aviator, Daniel Maloney, would give their lives for their passion and invention of flight.

John J. Montgomery, the son of a prominent lawyer brought out West by the Gold Rush, was born in 1858 in Yuba City/Marysville.  As a boy, John Montgomery would observe flight through birds in the sky and use that as inspiration throughout his work.  Montgomery would also be inspired by another early aviator’s demonstration during his boyhood.  The Montgomery family would move into Oakland in 1864, where his father held a successful law practice.  In Millbrae in 1869, a young John Montgomery would witness the flight of an airship, closer to a zeppelin or blimp, called the Avitor Hermes, Jr.  Young Montgomery would go home to Oakland and build a model for himself.  Only a hand full of people had ever been in flight.  Back then, ships would be lifted by balloons of helium or hydrogen, and were only in air for a very limited amount of flight time, a matter of seconds, before descent.

images1GCFWI19102897People have been fascinated with flight but baffled by its execution.  In a Greek Myth, Icarus would try to fly with wings of feathers and wax that melted as he approached the Sun.  This creates the message that flight is beyond our grasp.  There were totally kites going back in history.  Leonardo Da Vinci would dream of inventing planes and helicopters in the 15th-16th century.  Hot air balloons and the like would be used in the later half of the 18th century.  Before John Montgomery’s time, balloons would be the only way to make flight possible, pioneered by Jacques Charles and the Robert brothers.  The obstacle with preceding inventions for flight would fall short because they were too heavy to launch from the ground.  The planes would simply fall.

P1320674John Montgomery attended St. Ignatius College in San Francisco, graduating in 1879 and obtaining his Masters in 1880.   James Lick Observatory would begin construction  in 1879 and John would’ve become aware of Santa Clara County’s elevations.  Montgomery would start designing his flying machines in San Diego County in 1881 when his family moved there after college.  After his hours working on the farm, he would pour the left over energy into his theories.  John Montgomery would build models in the barn’s attic.  These first designs, Montgomery would work with a flapping wing like Leonardo Da Vinci’s sketch.  The flapping wing wouldn’t be as effective as a fixed one.

P1320689In 1882-84, Montgomery would experiment with flight outside of San Diego along the Mexican border with “gliders”, a monoplane closer to a hang-glider than Leonardo’s flapping flying machine.  Gliders would require perfect conditions to get and keep in flight or the aforementioned balloon would raise the machine hundreds of feet.  This is a scene from Montgomery’s San Diego area workshop.  This machine was inspired on the wings of seagulls.  John J. Montgomery’s flights in the 1880’s would be the first heavier-than-air flight, the event observed by friends and family members but not widely publicized.  This glider would’ve been a gull shaped, single winged flying machine, or a monoplane.  The glider would ignore the “Yaw” or center of mass, the gravitational force towards that would swing from the heaviest point, the pilot.  During this time, Octave Chanute, a contemporary critic, would have harsh words for Montgomery, but Montgomery’s pursuit of flight would continue.

1884_Montgomery_GliderJohn J. Montgomery would continue experimenting and flying throughout California, in San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara Counties.  To fund his inventions, John Montgomery would pursue other endeavors within physics and engineering.  In 1884, Montgomery would be granted a patent for the process of vulcanizing and devulcanizing rubber.

camberedIn 1885, Montgomery would start also experimenting with how air flowed over different shaped surfaces, adding considerably to the field of aerodynamics.  Montgomery, still in San Diego County, would be so secretive about his experiments, no one knew what he was up to at the time but close family members.  The fruit of this labor would later be written in trade publications and heard during groundbreaking Aviation Navigation discussions in the early 20th century.  Inspired by the articulating wings of turkey vultures and eagles, he would being to tie the fixed wing to a guiding mechanism to keep the plane even or balanced.  Montgomery’s research would prove a slightly curved surface best for his gliders.  Montgomery would also start programming direction and counter-controls for gusts of wind and easy turning through a series of spring loaded mechanisms.

P1320697John J. Montgomery was finally hearing through the newspapers and his brother, in New York, about other early aviators.  This news and competition would inspire Montgomery to act upon his research, and be a part of the conversation in the new field of science.

In 1893, Montgomery attended the Chicago Columbian Exhibition to listen to Nikola Tesla speak about electricity.  Once there, John would introduce himself to the aviation and physics professors, inventors and theorists.  His networking paid off, and Montgomery would be invited to speak at the conference himself and gain through his experiments.  Montgomery, gaining fame for his accomplishments, would begin lecturing at colleges across the country, demonstrating flights and investigating the physics behind flight.  The flow of air over the wing would affect the next design of flying machines.

scuIn 1895, John J. Montgomery would own a patent for a better petroleum burning furnace.  John Montgomery would be invited to take a teaching position with Santa Clara University in 1897.  He would teach physics and other sciences.  At the University in 1901, Montgomery would begin experimenting with Father Richard Bell on wireless telecommunications or radio, transmitting messages as far as San Francisco.  In later years, he would demonstrate flight for hundreds of spectators at Santa Clara.

P1320694In 1903, John J. Montgomery would begin to develop this gliders again while teaching at Santa Clara University.  He would also coin the word “aeroplane”, which later became “airplane”, and gain the patent in 1905 for the improvements of the technology.  Inspired by the collaboration of a colleague, Montgomery would design a tandem winged glider with a propeller.  The collaborator would take Montgomery’s propeller design and win first place at the World Fair in St. Louis, Missouri.

P1320692Sometimes, competition is the healthiest thing for invention and innovation.  John J. Montgomery wouldn’t be discouraged by the professional betrayal.  Montgomery would lead several successful high elevation flights launched from balloons and maintaining flight for several minutes until gliding to a gradual stop.  The Wright Brothers would also be taking flight around this time.  What separated Montgomery’s work from other early aviators, besides beating them to flight by 20 years, was the duration of flight and the controlled figure eight patterns demonstrated.  Montgomery’s machines wouldn’t have a motor at this point, but that wasn’t Montgomery’s priority.  Safety and control were paramount to him.

maloneyIn July of 1905, Montgomery’s friend, colleague and test pilot, Daniel Maloney, would die testing on of his gliders on a balloon elevated flight.  The Santa Clara, this version of the aeroplane, was flown hundreds times.  The machine was damaged on a previous flight but hadn’t broken completely until that point.  Maloney and Montgomery would’ve tested their gliders in the hills of Evergreen, as well as other places, before demonstrations in the City of San Jose and the University.  This event and the big Earthquake of 1906 would cause Montgomery to take a little break from flying.

Montgomery would always be inventing and contributing to a wide range of industries.  In 1909, perhaps inspired by hearing Nikola Tesla speak in 1893, John J. Montgomery would patent an alternating current rectifier.  This would’ve improved radios and electrical vacuums at the time.  The semi-conductor would replace this technology later on.  Current Alternating Current Rectifiers are still used in DC (Direct Current) and high-voltage situations today.  Most power sources around your house are grounded (GFC), not direct.

montgomery 1Despite popular belief, John J. Montgomery didn’t actually live in the Village of Evergreen.  Montgomery lived closer to Santa Clara University where he worked and the Pueblo of San Jose that built up around the Mission of Santa Clara.  John Montgomery would come to get permissions from Evergreen’s Ramonda Family to fly on their ranch with the optimal hillsides to take flight from without the assistance of a balloon.

John Montgomery would fly again in 1910, after finding his love.  Montgomery fixed, immobilized, the tail of the airplane and incorporated the guiding features into the warping of the wing pattern.  From there, John J. Montgomery was to add an engine and patent the design as the first plane.  This design was titled “the Evergreen”.

montgomery deathUnfortunately, during this series of flights and trials, John J. Montgomery would pass away after a landing he couldn’t walk away from.  On October 31, 1911, Montgomery would fly through Evergreen for the last time.  Without his contributions to the field and his competition that drove other inventors, we would be flying hundreds of miles an hour in metal tubes over a hundred years later.  Beyond that, Montgomery was constantly improving upon technology and his work is around us everywhere, from our car tires to our electrical outlets.

91d4d203-6e45-4919-9cdf-7295ef5f6498The experiments and public demonstrations in Santa Clara County brought another claim to fame for the Valley of Heart’s Delight.  If you didn’t know Evergreen’s famous fruit or famous wines, you would’ve heard about that guy who died flying there.  The park and monument are here in Evergreen at Montgomery Hill Park along Yerba Buena Road and San Felipe Road, near where he passed.  Another monument stands today at the Santa Clara University campus.  Another airplane wing stands at the site of his San Diego County flights.  You can also view his work at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C or the much closer Hiller Museum in Redwood City.  His great grandnephew has written a book and has agreed to our interview on the subject of John J. Montgomery and flight in general, at he follows in John’s footsteps as a professor of physics at UC Santa Cruz.

montgomery-2015-copyMy experience and my knowledge of John J. Montgomery began with painting for the Evergreen School District at the school named in his honor.  Otherwise, I would’ve remained unaware of the inventor.  There, one of the ball walls specifically discusses the History of Aviation and where John J. Montgomery fits within that narrative.  Gliders were incorporated into all the murals on campus.

Other longtime Evergreen residents, like Jerry Kettmann, would’ve had an intimate relationship with aviation, cultivated at the nearby Hillview Airport.  Harriet Quimby would’ve been directly inspired by Montgomery’s flights.  Here’s the artwork we have planned for John J. Montgomery who helped put Evergreen on the map.

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Redundant Theme – Evergreen’s Vineyards

P1310197There are some motifs which reoccur throughout the Evergreen Mural Walk artwork.  Let’s be transparent about what they are because these themes will eventually amount to be the identity of the Evergreen Community in different stages of its history.  A common denominator which reoccurs several times within the artwork is Evergreen’s agricultural prides.  One of those were our vineyards and its grapes.

Interior-FirstGeneration-PierrePellierLouis%20Pellier%20from%20HSJ(1)California would have its own wild grape before immigrants began colonizing.  The California Missions would grow grapes by the Spanish, but not fancy ones.  The Pellier family from Evergreen would bring European grape varietals over from their Native France in the 1850’s and ignite the California Wine Industry.

Charles C. Smith, F.J. Smith Store and Residence, Adam Herman,Evergreen was a town that began alongside the California Wine Industry.  One of the first businesses in Evergreen would be opened by town founder, Francis J. Smith.  The Smith Winery off of San Felipe Road at the epicenter of Evergreen. openeing next door to the family’s general store.  I will do some further research whether or not this is the same structure the beauty salon opened in at the same location today.

P1320569 The Kettmann clan would boast about their hundreds of acres vineyards, even keeping them planted even through Prohibition when many farmers abandoned them.  The Kettmann family profited off of the sales made for illegal winemaking operations.

Heritage Room azules.pdfWilliam Wehner, a German painter coming to California by way of Chicago, would who come to Evergreen and build the Wehner Mansion or Villa Lomas Azules in 1891 by an influential skyscraper architect.  From the Mansion built for winemaking, Wehner would grow award winning white varieties of wine.  The Villa Lomas Azules, or Blue Hills Estate, would house winery operations for almost 75 years in Evergreen.

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1876 MapDr. C. C. Babb, Mayor John A. Quinby (Quimby), and farmer John Avena would also be noted as having vineyards in the Village of Evergreen in the early 1900’s.  I am fairly certain smaller vineyards would have existed throughout Evergreen for personal use.  Homesteads had to be self-sufficient as possible in those days.  These were what was found in Business Directories until 1902.

05s1cyP1310071The Pellier brothers plants would live on, but their French winemaking tradition would be passed down as well.  Henrietta Pellier, daughter of Pierre, would marry Mr. Mirassou and the couple began the Mirassou Winemaking Family still being cultivated in Evergreen today.  After Mirassou’s passing, her new husband would also continue to make wine in Evergreen.

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EastSideFruitGrowers-smThe East-side Fruit Growers Association would assist East San Jose and Evergreen farmers negotiate with Packing Companies.  Nearby Barron-Gray would need grapes for their first-to-market Fruit Cocktail.  Large winemaking operations would outsource certain varieties which they themselves couldn’t grow.  Grapes are fickle fruit.  They liked the climate and hillsides of Evergreen.  This East-side trade association would eventually be goggled up by the California Prune and Apricot Growers Association, which would become SunKist Fruit.

cribari1housevin-villagesAn Italian immigrant, Benjamino Cribari, would come to own the famed Wehner Mansion in 1933, then known as the Cribari Mansion, and plant vineyards up the steps of the Evergreen foothills and extended the winery’s property in 1940.  The Cribari’s family specialty would be table and altar wines.  Benjamino’s children and grandchildren would grow to cultivate the Evergreen vineyards into the 1970’s.  Silver Creek Winery is still operated by the Cribari family today.

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lomasazulesmenu2-9631Later generations of the Mirassou family vintners would lease the basement of the Cribari Mansion for wine storage.  The Wehner/Azul Lomas Villa/Cribari Mansion is now located inside the Villages Retirement Community nestled into Evergreen hills.  Today, the mansion is a historic landmark but needs a little love.

CAM09455P1310098The Mirassou Wine Family would be the oldest winemaking family in California.  Mirassou Winery today continues to be a landmark on Aborn Road.  The fourth generation would take over the wine operations in 1966.  The wine operations would move, due to suburban development and depletion of soil nutrients.  That having been said, this is an ungoing love affair for the Mirassou family who continue to make wine and call Evergreen home.

Vineyards in Evergreen may be scarce today, but we owe credit to the grapevines of Evergreen’s glory days.  Here’s the artwork conceived with our Evergreen vineyards in mind.

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Through the grapevine – Pellier Contributions

1876 MapMy grandmother used to own a home off Norwood Avenue and have volunteer grapevines charging up through her hillside backyard.  Little did she know, my grandmother’s house was a part of the Pellier estate, one of the largest in early Evergreen.

Louis%20Pellier%20from%20HSJ(1)The Pellier Brothers would eventually come to call Evergreen home in the late 1850’s.  Before that, the Pelliers would live in the Pueblo of San Jose as California became a State and as San Jose became its Capitol in the early 1850’s.  Luis Pellier would get creative with his brother Pierre while gold panning in 1848, changing San Jose and California forever once again.

Interior-FirstGeneration-PierrePellierBy bringing over their cions , seeds, clippings and plantings from their Native Country of France, Luis, Pierre and Jean Pellier would set fire to the huge California Fruit Industry.  Basically, there was no industry before that, as Mission lands and their predictable orchards were left unattended and were being reclaimed by wilderness.  The California Missions were secularized by Mexico in 1833.  By the time the Pelliers came to California, the Missions weren’t even holding Catholic Mass.

In fact, Evergreen before the Pellier journeys would’ve been cattle grazing land.  After the Pellier journeys, Santa Clara Valley would become known as the Valley of Heart’s Delights.

MissSJLoWhat was grown in the Spanish Period at the Franciscan Missions in California from 1769-1821?  I’m so glad you asked.  The indigenous native peoples, priests and monks grew “mission grapes”, apples, lemons and oranges, beans, veggies and olives for the most part.  Olive Oil would be a source of pride for the Missions.  The “Mission Grape” of the Spanish colonists was a Vitus vinifera, a Spanish variety that was black and blue in color.  The clippings would’ve been brought over sea with Cortez’s colonization of Mexico or New Spain.  Only problem was less than 1000 acres of vineyards would be cultivated in California until the 1850’s.  These plants were a dying off as people left the Missions.  The Mission Grape would have been made into wine for Sacraments.  The Spanish may have brought apricots as well, originating in Turkey.  There was an indigenous plum tree present in California.  A wild grape, too, would be indigenous.  Mission San Jose would be one of the biggest producers, but would’ve been closed for several years by the time the Pelliers set sail.

booksOE4IRI16s-l225What did the Pellier brothers from France with help from the Delmas brothers bring to the Port of Alviso and to Santa Clara County?  Luis and Pierre Pellier would pull into port and sell peach, pear, plum, cherry, apple and prune cions off their boat in Alviso in the 1850’s.  Certainly his most famous contribution was the Angen ‘D Petit Prune, but the Valley of Heart Delight would begin with these trips to France and these cions.  With the driving force of the Pelliers’ new varietals, the Fruit Industry would soon provide thousands of jobs, would drive people to come to the Santa Clara Valley and would bring spark the Fruit Canning business.  We, in California, still feel the benefit of their actions today.

books1The French Prune brought to California in 1854 was considered perfect for drying and dipping.  After it was grafted on to a California plum tree, it became an instant success.  Pellier raised orchards of prunes and a nursery famed in downtown San Jose.  The Angen ‘D Petit Prune was immediately adopted by other Santa Clara Valley’s orchardists.  This would become Santa Clara County’s identity to the rest of the United States through the 1950’s when Silicon Valley bumped it.  The prune’s attributes, complimentary for drying and dipping, would make them a popular commercial export.

10688125_10153388158008316_4870909524103337438_oThe Prune Orchards would quickly spread all over Santa Clara County, the Valley of Heart’s Delight, and then all over California.  The French Prune ignited the whole California Fruit Industry, as only dried fruits could be exported.  The Mexican Government had a hard time settling California.  California through the Mexican Period (1821-1848) wouldn’t be well-known for its awesome agriculture, despite the rich soil noted by the Spanish Missionaries.  Evergreen was a grazing land.  The Missions closing meant the crops became scarce.  Pellier’s strategy was inspired by the high price of fruit.

1810A dollar gets you much less today, so you will naturally need more dollars to obtain the same product over 100 years ago.  Here’s an exception to that rule.  Before Luis and Pierre Pellier’s travels, an apple would cost over a dollar.  Today, $2.00 would get you a pound or several apples.  The demand was so high for apples and produce, most people couldn’t afford them.  You could forget about apple pie.  That would’ve cost you over $20.00 in apples alone in 1850’s California.  If you were in California in the 1850’s, you were a pioneer, gold panning and roughing it.  Their business idea was brilliant.  I wonder if they knew about the Manifest Destiny campaign that would send thousands of newcomers to California in a few short years.

pl_pellier_city_gardens_crhl434Luis Pellier would open “City Gardens” and sell his cions and young trees to the rest of Santa Clara County’s farmers in 1850.  This was the epicenter of the Valley of Heart’s Delight, creating a path to the American Dream for farmers coming to California.  The Pellier brothers would leave their popular nursery and orchards in downtown San Jose, where Pellier Park is today, and move to Evergreen to plant acres of vineyards in later 1850’s.

In 1858, Luis Pellier, now Evergreen resident, would present nine varieties of foreign grapes at the national trade show, being described as “unequalled to any other of the same variety”.  Luis Pellier’s introduction of new grapes would almost single handedly create the California Wine Industry as well.  Grafted on to Mission vines and indigenous vines, these grapes is really well in Evergreen.  When wine was made and the word spread, the Pelliers struck gold again.

Grapes-Bunches-Illustration jpgThe Pellier brothers are originally from the Bordeaux region of France, well-known for its Wine Industry.  The Pellier boys would’ve grown up cultivating their parents’ vineyards and orchards in France.  Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec would’ve been easily found in that region of France.  Folle Blanche, the ultimate brandy making grape, has been contributed to Luis Pellier.  A Black Burgundy grape, another brandy grape, would also be brought to California by Pellier.  A Mourvedre vine, similar to a Mission Grape but a French strain, has also been drawn back to Pellier.  These would become popular in Zinfandel vineyards.  Chasselas Fontainebleau,  French Colombar and Madelaine are green grapes for white wines that have also been contributed to the Pellier brothers trips to France.

pinotMirassouWinerylogoEven though the Pellier brothers would become famous for their perfect prune trees, descendants of the Pelliers would be boastful of its Pinot Noir grapes and wines.  These certainly would’ve been brought back from France in the 1850’s by their forefathers.  Pellier descendants, the Mirassou family, have called Evergreen home for over 150 years.  Mirassou Winery operated off of Aborn Road for 100 years and continues to be a landmark in Evergreen.  Today, the Mirassou Winemaking Family continues to be the oldest Wine Family in California and continue to call Evergreen home.

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12314282_198416020500512_5584157587879954674_oBefore this point, varieties of wine could only be found in Europe, mainly in France and Spain, and imported into the United States.  California wasn’t well settled, but that would change fairly rapidly.  Again, Missions harvested Mission Grapes for altar wines and brandy, but there wasn’t much more out there.  What was out there was going away with the Missions closing.  With the Gold Rush and Manifest Destiny in full affect, the Pelliers would be at the right place at the right time to make something amazing happen.  California is the second capitol of wine today.  It would difficult to envision Napa Valley today without its vineyards.  80% of these vines can be traced back to that Alviso Port.  California’s Fruit Industry was initiated by Pellier’s cions.  Luis Pellier is acknowledged as one of the founding fathers of San Jose.  Here’s the artwork specific to the Pellier Family past and its present.

1848 1966

Generations of the Kettmann Clan

P1320560Along the research for this Evergreen project, I have met the most fantastic people.  If this guy needed a new best friend, I would be first in line.  I discussed with Honorable Judge Gerhard J. Kettmann (Jerry) the four generations of his family who blossomed in Evergreen and continue to call Evergreen home today.  He’s the ultimate expert, having written a book and working on another about their family history.  What is extraordinary about the Kettmann family, making it a crucial piece of our mural series, is their witness to almost 150 years of Evergreen’s development.  We will start by discussing how the Kettmann’s came to America.  The United States is a country of immigrants.  We would all come here from somewhere else.  I think that’s the first thing that bonds all of us Evergreen residents together.

Gold Rush - Public DomainJohan Hermann Gerhard Kettmann (George) was the youngest of 8 siblings, born in 1827 in Kettenkamp, Germany.  His someday wife would be another German immigrant growing up only 8 miles away in Germany.  Gerhard Kettmann would leave his Native Country of Germany at the age of 22 and arrive in the Port of New Orleans in 1849.  Gerhard Kettmann would travel from Louisiana through Panama to come to Sutter County, California in 1853 and pan for gold.  With a little luck along the Yuba River and Feather River, George would come to purchase 160 acres of land in Sutter County.

140) George KettmannGeorge Kettmann would marry Bernadina Torbrecke in Marysville, California, but there’s a very cute folkloric story to this pairing.  Dina was first cousin of the Krehe Family, who would also come to live in Evergreen.  Henry and Bernard Krehe would invite their unmarried family members from Germany to come to the United States.  George Kettmann, being close friends with the Krehes, got to make his pick first and chose Bernadina.

6254956674_f8ffe7d622Whether that story was true or not, the German couple was married in Marysville, California in January of 1858.  George and Bernadina Kettmann would have eleven children.  The Kettmann clan would begin grow in Sutter County on the acreage along the Feather River, operating a general store known as “Five Mile House”.  In addition to the store along the highway, George also would raise a herd of sheep and cattle on his 160 acres before moving the whole herd, family and all, to the Santa Clara County.

P1320570George Kettmann showed interest in Santa Clara County in the 1850’s, after traveling their with a family member.  With the new variety of fruit being introduced to the agricultural field stimulated by Luis and Pierre Pellier, Kettmann made his move to Evergreen, then a tiny farming town.  George Kettmann would purchased a portion of Rancho Yerba Buena in 1867 near downtown Evergreen along Evergreen Road.  In fact, this first Evergreen parcel purchased by the Kettmanns belonged to the Chaboya Family’s attorney, William Matthews, and had been paid land in order to settle those legal fees.

1876 MapThis initial parcel was a perfect 150 acre rectangle with the exception of the land that had been donated to the Evergreen Elementary School.  Evergreen’s schoolhouse would be where the shopping center with the Valero and Wells Fargo is today.  The Evergreen Elementary School would be located here until 1892, when it moved a little down San Felipe Road.  Kettmann Road at Aborn Road is very near this school site, but it would’ve been on the other side of Thompson Creek, then Dry Creek.  Let it be known though that even the attorney didn’t donate this land.  That carried over on the Title from the previous owner, Mr. Cadwallader.

P1320569The Kettmann family didn’t stop with that first purchase of 147.7 acres in downtown Evergreen.  Through an interesting purchase and exchange of land with fellow German immigrants, the Hassler family, the Kettmanns obtained another 103.10 acres in 1875.  The Hasslers and Kettmanns separated the properties along the Touchard Line, which falls on part of present day Neiman Boulevard.   Modern day Kettmann Road, where the Evergreen Library Branch is located on Aborn Road, runs between these two land purchases.  As Evergreen folklore would have it, this acquisition was the only purchase Antonio Chaboya’s family actually profited off of after their debts were settled trying to evict their new neighbors.  In 1881, one of George Kettmann’s sons would become an Evergreen landowner as well.

P1320549The eldest of eleven siblings, Clemens Andrew Kettmann was born on the Marysville ranch in 1858, less than a year after the couple wed.  Clemens would’ve made the journey with his father, George, the large sheep herd and fellow cowboys to Evergreen in 1868.  Clemens Kettmann was the only son to make the journey at 9 years old.  Young Clem only had sisters at that point.  The trek from Marysville with the herd must’ve taken over a month on horseback.  The rest of the family would come in 1869, after Dina gave birth to another sister.  From the Evergreen homestead, the clan would continue to raise livestock but also incorporate fruit, vegetables and grain into their business strategy.

P1320566Homestead Laws would allow families to obtain a certain portion of land from the government after cultivating it for 5 years.  The Kettmann Family as a group diversified this ranching strategy in the heart of Evergreen and accentuated their grazing potential with homestead purchases along the back side of Mt. Hamilton Ranch.  These adjoining Mt. Hamilton homesteads weren’t fantastic for farming, but it could and would be done with altered harvesting equipment.  The Kettman clan had so many acres in the Mt. Diablo Mountain Range, this area would become known as “Kettmann Range”.  Lamb and sheep would be a rarity in Evergreen and San Jose at this time.  Cattle ranching would’ve been totally ordinary and generally what had been grazing throughout Evergreen for some 50 years beforehand.  The Kettmann clan held on to their German heritage by passing on this tradition.

P1310192Clemens Kettmann would come to purchase the adjacent parcel to his father’s in 1881, then 23 years old, from Louis Kampfen, another German farmer, who obtained his portion after the Hasslers from the previous Hassler/Kettmann deal.  This was 80.18 acres large, literally being the family’s “80 acres”.  Kettmann’s friends and cousins, the Krehe Family, would also move in nearby.  There was quite the hotspot of German American culture in early Evergreen, with the Smith’s and Stephens Families nearby.

P1320551Clemens A. Kettmann would marry a German-American lady, Mary Vollmer, in 1890 at St. Joseph’s Basilica in downtown San Jose.  Mary wore an apricot colored dress, how fitting.  Clem Kettmann and Mary Vollmer would have seven kids on their Evergreen homestead.  This labor force, along with his younger brothers at his father’s homestead next door, would help Clem Kettmann cultivate the land.

P1320554Having a big family in the 19th century was a big deal.  You needed help working on the farm.  In fact, having eleven children wouldn’t be enough to operate ranches as large as these.  The Kettmanns would employ help in the house and on the farm.  The children would start picking fruit between school breaks and into adulthood would sew sacks and become a part of the traveling crew harvesting crops all over Evergreen.  Harvests were true team efforts.  A barter system would be reached for labor and harvesting.  Horses were in high demand for plowing and the like.  Labor was generally $2.00 a day for a horse and a man.  This was a typical scene from the Fowler Threshing Syndicate, harvesting grain.  Evergreen was a teambuilding utopia back in the day.  Strength in numbers seemed to be a focus.

P1320557Generations of the Kettmann clan would grow up in Evergreen alongside the Industrial Revolution.  George Kettmann would’ve farmed just like he had learned to in his Native Germany, very much by hand.  The Farming Industry during this time would transition from horse and plow, pitchforks, sickle and scythe to tractors, threshing machines and haypresses.  George’s youngest son, Andrew Kettmann, would develop tools for apricot harvesting.  Clem’s children, too, would’ve hand first on experience transitioning from horse pulled threshing crews to tractor or truck pulled rig.  The Kettmann clan would continuously learn to adapt their farming techniques as the technology improved.  In the 1920’s, Clem’s son, Julius, would open a garage to help fix machines in downtown San Jose after adapting and fixing machinery on the family homestead.  This legacy can be seen as descendants now operate the Kettmann Machining, Inc. in San Jose.

Apricots jpgGeorge and Clem would both plant orchards on their properties.  Clemens Kettmann would plant several acres of apricots with their commercial stock going way up.  Mixing his varieties of apricot, Clem created a sweet apricot which was also large and ripened evenly.  Clem’s sloped property presented irrigation problems for portions of his orchards.  He found the unirrigated crop was sweeter but smaller than the other harvest.  These were his apricots.  He would find the same to be true of his corn crops.  Those that were naturally watered were naturally sweeter.

P1320553The Kettmann families would plant several acres of prunes and cherry orchards along with their apricots.  The clan also had several acres of vineyards also at their Evergreen property.  Threshing crews would cultivate over a hundred acres of grain, oats and alfalfa from the Kettmann farms.  I never thought about it before, but horses take a lot to feed.  If you have horses for plowing, you need acres just to settle your own horses.  The Kettmann family would continue to grow and branch out in Evergreen.  Into the 1900’s their children would take over the roles running the farms and ranches after their education.  Prohibition cause a lot of vintners to pull up their grapevines and retire their wine businesses.  The Kettmanns did not however and made a small fortune continuing to sell grapes for underground wine operations.  Between these ranches and the Kettmann Range, the Evergreen family was sitting pretty.

CAM10101 6238515012_b826539c1b_oThe German American Inventor and all around funny guy, Andrew Kettmann would grow up sewing sacks for grain and maintaining the family farm.  George’s son and Clem’s youngest brother, Andy Kettmann would open downtown Evergreen’s second Saloon along San Felipe Road.  Andrew Kettmann’s Saloon became increasingly popular amongst quicksilver miners through World War I.  This spot would be a hub of culture until 1920 when Prohibition was enforced.  Until then, many tipsy tales were told out of Andy’s Saloon.

P1320562After George’s passing in 1912, his property would be equally divided amongst his eleven children.  The Kettmann Family Ranch would continue to modernize with Clem’s son’s, Louis.  Louis Kettmann would take Clem’s horse powered ranch into the present with the purchase of a tractor built from tank parts.  Large mechanical farming equipment would need to be leased or the old machinery would need to be updated.  The rural Village of Evergreen was rapidly changing through the early 1900’s.  Cars were a blessed invention and roads would be paved, but open space began to dwindle.  That free path to the Kettmann Range through Downtown Evergreen would close up.  Clem would pass in 1943.  The Kettmann family continued to expand, but some would start breaking away from the family business to pursue their own goals.  Farming in Evergreen would become more scarce as more residents starting moving in.  Managing the wasn’t easy business as my interviewee would realize firsthand.

CAM09451In the summer of 1947, Judge Jerry Kettmann, then just known as Jerry, would lease hay land from Grandma Mary (Vollmer) Kettmann.    It was Jerry’s idea to make it rich that summer and buy a convertible to take out coeds from San Jose State.  This same model T, pictured here with Jerry taken over that summer, pooped out in the middle of the road off San Fernando and 4th Street near the University.  Jerry called his cousin to help push the car out of the roadway and into the gas station it pooped out yards away from.  Jerry Kettmann would sell off a nearly paid-off tractor to cover his losses and pay his grandmother back that summer.

George’s great grandson and Clem’s grandson,  Judge Gerhard J. Kettmann, was born in 1926 in Los Gatos but would soon relocate to his father’s Evergreen homestead.  As a boy, Jerry would attend Evergreen Elementary School, then Roosevelt Middle School and San Jose High School.  Kettmann recalls family get togethers with the Chaboya family as a child.   Jerry would throw apricots like snowballs, run through vacant mine shafts and sleep in homemade treehouses in Evergreen.  Judge Kettmann is a huge fan of flying, a fondness he developed on an aircraft carrier in World War II.  Kettmann’s father and grandfather could’ve told him tales of Montgomery’s pioneer flights from their own experience.

After serving in the Navy in World War II, Jerry Kettmann later worked in the railroad as a fireman, at the Baron-Gray Packing Company packing fruit and then at the Post Office downtown before attending SJSU for Aviation Engineering then Business and Economics.  Sadly, young Jerry’s 1947 dream of striking it rich quick would never be realized.

5985901606_458641384egavelThe Honorable Judge Jerry Kettmann was accepted to Stanford Law in 1953 but instead attended UC Berkeley, where he graduated in the upper third of his class.  Judge Kettmann began working as a Trust Attorney for Wells Fargo, but left to pursue trial law with the District Attorney’s Office.  Though Judge Kettmann is partial to Civil Law, he told me about 85% of the cases he saw on the bench were criminal cases.  Judge Kettmann would oversee cases at the height of the Civil Rights movement, even appearing in front of an Angela Davis case.  Rioters would shout things and try to frustrate Judges.  It wouldn’t work on Judge Kettmann, though.  He removed their signs and have them properly tagged by court officials as the defending attorney tried including them as evidence.  Judge Kettmann would find himself arbitrating through the later part of his career.

P1320567Judge Gerhard J. Kettmann would retire from the Law and write from his Evergreen home.  The Kettmann family historian carries a tradition that began about 150 years ago in Evergreen.  Judge Kettmann, though groomed on the farm, managed to keep up with the quickly changing times.  This area of Evergreen, between Kettmann Road and Neiman Boulevard  was developed beginning in the 1960’s.  At 89 years young, Judge Kettmann’s enthusiasm is contagious.  Really, I am so proud of my Evergreen people.  It makes my job so easy when they are great and have great stories to tell!  Here’s the artwork we have worked up for the Kettmann Family.

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Downtown Developer developed in Evergreen

Aevergreen-realtort the beginning of this project, I discussed with a few people: What is Evergreen?  What’s the feeling?  Who gives you the feeling?   And what was it like to grow up in Evergreen?  I’m looking to communicate that authentic emotion with these murals.  Who better to discuss it with than people with Evergreen roots who watched it grew up.

This project has connected me with some of the most gracious people.  I think kindness is a natural byproduct of farming, ranching and growing up in Evergreen.  My interviewee was beyond kind and frankly caught me off guard with how generous he was with his time.  I was enjoying talking to him so much that I forgot I was taking notes and conducting an interview.  I admire this gentleman for a number of reasons.  If I thought my application would get responded to, I would’ve applied to work for his awesome company when I worked in construction.  His company is one built on family roots and a vision of the future.  It is hard to find creativity within construction, however Barry Swenson manages to innovate in both building techniques and aesthetic of his creations.

1363191_500Evergreen Native, Barry Swenson, came from a long line of builders.  Barry has passed the family business on to son, Case.

CAM09638Mr. Swenson’s grandfather, Carl N. Swenson, was born in Sweden in 1885.  He came to the United States when he was seventeen with ten dollars in his pocket.  Carl Swenson would come to Chicago to his aunt’s house, where his aunt threatened to take his ten dollars in exchange for her hospitality.  Carl would start working on railroads and then start building his way West from 1902-1911.  He would also marry wife, Anna Mathilda Olson, also a Swedish immigrant.  From a Turlock base, Swenson would take on projects all over the Central Valley and even the Bay Area.  Carl would build the Medico-Dental Building across the street from City Hall in 1928.  It must have been quite an introduction to the Valley of Heart’s Delight because in 1929, the Swensons would move to San Jose.

ee871915451c34c8f52ea7c07be8e3d5Here, Carl N. Swenson Construction would start building modern marvels of technology and begin having a huge hand in shaping the Silicon Valley.  Luckily, he worked with an amazing architect, William H. Weeks.  The Art Deco architectural wonder Hotel DeAnza, built by Carl Swenson in 1931, is one of the most popular San Jose landmarks this way.   The Hotel Palomar, built in 1929, would withstand the 1989 earthquake with reinforced \concrete.  The Swenson craftsmanship and quality would create a reputation strong enough to pass on to the next generation.

10688125_10153388158008316_4870909524103337438_oCarl Swenson would move his family on to a 26 acre farm in Evergreen, purchased from the Hassler Family, in 1943.  Barry Swenson went to Andrew Hill High School before Silver Creek was built.  Carl N. Swenson purchased his ranch off Silver Creek Road for a mere $6,000.00.  In 2005, Barry put an estimated valuation of $16,000,000.00 on the real estate.  What a great investment!  Barry Swenson says if his grandfather’s property had remained in the family, he would still live in Evergreen today. 

ExteriorCarl’s son, Clifford, born in 1916, was a waterboy on the DeAnza Hotel project.  Cliff would’ve been the same age his father was when he came to America and began working on railroads.  Clifford would grow up on a ranch and surrounded by his father’s business.  He studied Engineering and Economics at San Jose University.  Clifford W. Swenson would rise through the ranks at Carl N. Construction Company. 

nasa-wind-tunnel-design-1948It’s been said that Clifford had the vision to create things from scratch and the ability to follow carry them out.  Cliff’s imagination would continue to propel Carl N. Swenson Construction forward through challenging projects.  He was no doubt an asset on projects like that at Moffett Field in 1948.  The Swensons would build NASA’s wind tunnel that we’ve all seen on school field trips.  Cliff would become president of the Carl N Construction Company in 1956.  In 1958, they would be contracted to build San Jose’s City Hill, now a part of the Civic Center complex on Hedding Street.

swenson familyCliff would write in a company brochure far as back as 1962: “Construction and development is a people-oriented business requiring a diversity of talent. Our company’s greatest asset is its people. The continued growth and success we have enjoyed over the years has been as a director result of teamwork: our professionals working with each other and directly with clients.”  The quality of people hired by Carl N. Swenson speaks for itself.  Beyond utilizing family members in their fields of study and strength, Cliff would hire some of today’s most successful developers.  He mentored Chuck Toeniskoetter and Dan Breeding.  In fact, Mr. Breeding would find his wife filing at Swenson’s.  Philip Mirenda would serve as VP and General Superintendent of Carl N. Swenson Construction for over 35 years.  Clifford Swenson even hired professional baseball vet Hap Smith.  He would also learn how to make way for the next generation.  Clifford could see talent in people, whether or not they had the experience.  Cliff Swenson would retire from the family business in 1983.

Mercury News archives -- An aerial photo of the San Jose Mercury News facility on Ridder Park Drive taken shortly after the plant opened in 1965. Note the lack of development around the building.

Carl N. Swenson Construction Company buildings are some of the most recognizable in the Silicon Valley because they have personality and dynamism.  To list all their projects would take a long time.  Dominican Hospital, San Jose Mercury New Headquarters, Milpitas Ford Plant, IBM, and Lockheed Martin Facilities are just a few.  The Santa Cruz Sentinel described projects like Dominican Hospital and San Lorenzo Park Plaza as “the realization of the dreams of men to build a better world” in 1967.

generations1970It is this sincerest hope of a better world that I feel coming from Mr. Barry Swenson.  This legacy of innovation and building is nothing more than a family tradition to the Swensons.  In 1961, the Green Valley Landscaping Company would become an offshoot of the Carl N. Swenson Construction Company, headed by newly graduated Clifford Barron “Barry” Swenson.  In 1977, Barry Swenson Builders would be established and pick up the family business.  Two years later, BSB would be the dominant entity in the Swenson Group. 

SecondatSantaClara2007Barry Swenson Builders had a professional homecoming in renovating the Hotel DeAnza for 2000% the cost of his grandfather’s original construction in 1931.  Historical landmarks renovated by Barry Swenson Builders are all over Downtown San Jose.  BSB is able to make old architecture feel like a new building from the inside.  Beyond Victorian homes and office building, New Century, Hayes Mansion and Santa Cruz’s Del Mar Theater are just a couple. 

CAP-uksUsAAb0rGBarry left Carl N. Swenson Construction and pursued his own direction because he found that practices were not innovating and keeping up with the building trends.  The Swenson quality and dependability were a given.  A young Barry Swenson was able to envision a new way of doing things and bring their family tradition into the future.  San Pedro Market is a Barry Swenson creation which looks so similar to the Carl N. Swenson façade.  Centurra, Vendrome and the Lofts on Alameda are just some of his new residential projects with a hint of old flavor.  That Swenson personality carries over even into this day.  Today, BSB focuses on a sustainable, innovative downtown experience.  If you’ve never seen their signs, you have.  You just weren’t paying attention.  

landmaker%20potential%20massThe Landmaker project is just one way in which Barry Swenson Builders is building “a better world”.  This creative design approach to concrete construction is a patented system designed to be safer, stronger, taller, greener and more cost-effective to other mid to high rise constructions. 

sjcc-techAgain, if we’re going to discuss BSB long list of accomplishments and creations, we’re going to be here a while.  FedEx Facilities in Santa Clara, Oakland and San Jose, GE-Hitachi Plant, Good Samaritan Medical Plaza, the San Jose City College Technology Center, City Heights, Levare Apartments at Santana Row, Century Towers, Milpitas Towers, Oakland’s Jack London Square and the DMV on Senter Road are just a couple. 

case-swenson_750This torch has been passed on to Case Swenson.  The young Mr. Swenson ran his own construction under the family umbrella for over 20 years.  Case joined Barry Swenson Builders’ leadership in 2013 and became president in 2014.  He, like his grandfather and undoubtedly his father, grew up doing chores on the jobsite.  The Swenson tradition of farming is still a fruitful on today.  A strong work ethic on the job and on the ranch is something the Swensons are very proud of.   It’s a tradition passed down for over 100 years that continues to create Silicon Valley as we know it. 

garden2tableThe Swensons have been incredibly philanthropic.  A personal fave of mine is the gift of land made to Garden to Table Taylor St. Farm, www.garden2table.org.  Barry Swenson Builders follows a tradition of donating to SJSU like his father.  Barry Swenson Builders is recognized as one of the most generous organizations in the Silicon Valley.  They don’t just put their money where it counts.  Barry Swenson Builders also participates through construction projects, providing real improvements to the Community.  Sacred Heart, City Team, History of San Jose and Good Karma Bikes are just a few causes they’ve swung a hammer for.  

8227078_origTremendously accomplished yet tremendously kind people- the Swensons from Evergreen have a lot to be proud of.  They have had a huge hand creating the Silicon Valley skyline, building up downtown, and continue that tradition of positive impact.  Barry Swenson Builders’ mission is in its logo and matra: Tradition, Innovation, Integrity.  It’s that simple.  Maybe that’s the recipe to success.  Mr. Swenson’s kindness and philanthropy are a bonus.  I can’t believe this innovator, preservationist, philanthropist, difference-maker came from Evergreen.  Barry Swenson grew up cultivated the 26 acres homestead near Silver Creek Road and now cultivates better buildings in a better San Jose.  Now that I’m so familiar with him, I see his signs and plaques of recognition everywhere.  Buildings for lease, Buildings being built, signage, everywhere.  He popped up at Eastside Union High School District’s Hall of Fame, having graduated in 1957.  Barry Swenson is well-known, well-respected, well-liked man and I totally understand why.  He has followed his passion and his traditions professionally and personally.  Here’s the artwork we’ve designed for generations of innovative builders. 

 

 1977

 

 

 

Evergreen Founders

hb896nb4gd-FID3Let’s straighten out a couple facts before we discuss the Town Founders.  Antonio Chaboya, son of Marcos Chaboya and brother of Pedro Chaboya, was granted over 24,000 acres of land known as Rancho Yerba Buena.  This is the area we know as Evergreen.  Before Spanish and Mexican colonization, there were Native Ohlone people here, whom we’ll discuss after we talk to our first person references.  The Chaboyas would sell Rancho Yerba Buena after European immigrants squatted and fought for rights to their homesteads.  It wasn’t violent but it wasn’t pretty.

Map 004, Saratoga, Evergreen, Santa Clara, San Antonio, MountaiAfter the Chaboyas let go of their greatest investment, Evergeen the Town or Village was built up centered about modern day San Felipe Road and Aborn Road.  In fact, we’ve discussed previously that Aborn was once called Evergreen Road, connecting with King Road and then to the City of San Jose.  This map is from 1863.  This first generations of Evergreen Smiths were born in Germany in the 1830-40’s.  As you can see from the map above, the Smiths were some of the first Europeans to settle in Evergreen.

Charles C. Smith, F.J. Smith Store and Residence, Adam Herman,Charles C. Smith moved in first.  After coming to Santa Clara County in 1859, Charles would develop a farm and do a little blacksmithing on the side.  He would later go on to be successful in real estate in Downtown San Jose with the firm Phelps & Smith.  Charles had diverse business holdings.  Charles and his wife had 10 kids.

6237991695_9e7a65829f_oNext door, in 1868, brother Francis Joe Smith and he would open the General Store off San Felipe Road.  This was Evergreen’s very first business.  Shortly after, Francis would also open a winery, though not Evergreen’s first.  Francis Joe Smith would become the Town Post Master in 1870 when Evergreen got a Post Office.  Francis Joe would also begin to diversify his investments with mining and other ventures.

165) Kathrine SmithFrancis and wife, Catherine, would have a daughter who would never marry but would embrace Evergreen with both arms wide open.  Katherine, Katie, R. Smith would be a teacher than the principal of the Evergreen School.  The School District, founded in 1860, would name a school after her over 100 years after the first school was built.  KR Smith Elementary School was the second school opened in Evergreen.  She would’ve attended and taught at the original school, then facilitated its moving further down San Felipe Road then to Fowler Road.  Katherine R. Smith would live to over 100 years old and continue to be involved in the School District.  She also held the record of oldest San Jose State graduate for a number of years.

P1310653Though their historical restoration and preservation has not been determined as of yet, the Smith Residences from the 1860’s still stand in Evergreen today off of San Felipe Road, obscured by once renowned, now overgrown, orange orchards.  It’s described as a Gothic Classic Revival farmhouse.  The stores along San Felipe burnt down.  Then again, their houses weren’t this close to the road back then.  San Felipe has been revised and straightened out.

P1310165The Smith families, both large, would marry into other Evergreen families and take over their fathers’ investments.  They appear in several maps at various times, creating a redundancy.  Descendants of the Smith Family still live in Evergreen today.  Don’t confuse James Franklin Smith Elementary School for the same Smith Family, however.  I have an interview with that involve Evergreen administrator coming up.  Here’s the artwork we’ve prepared to celebrate the Smith Family in our timeline.

1870